Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Spells And Secrets Of The Hazarim

The exiled Hazarim know much of interest to adventurers and their enemies. Read more about the Hazarim here, or this probably won't make much sense.

Relics Of The Faithful

Pilgrim's Conveyances

Over the years, so many Hazar corpses have required transportation to the holy city of Ummaq that magical coffins are a cottage industry. Since the dead are revived at their destination and dispense with funeral trappings, these objects can see continuous recycled use amongst the faithful. Some even originate from inside Ummaq, where the once-dead inhabitants sometimes craft items to help their brethren. All conveyances will have unusual resistance to damage and protect their contents from harm.

Some possible variations:
  • An urn that animates the spirit of the deceased within as a ghast, but that ghast cannot venture beyond thirty feet from the the urn, nor will it seek to do aught except protect itself and those carrying it (assuming they are heading toward Ummaq).
  • A gilded sarcophagus made of insect-lacquer. Any who open it are driven dangerously, self-destructively mad for 1d4 days. We're talking "thinks they need to eat fire to live" crazy. They need to be restrained or will surely perish. Those that have been raised from the dead at least once by any means prove immune to this affliction.
  • A marvelously crafted mahogany coffin, inlaid with strange stones. If the coffin is rapped upon, it sheds a horrendous red light that strikes all within thirty feet blind for a day (save negates).
  • A humble sack stitched from the shirts of many different pilgrims who have made the sacred journey conveying others' remains to Ummaq. It and its contents are invisible save to those who truly believe in the Hazar gods and their prophets.

This used to be all the rage in Khaldok.
Over the years, Gossivam has sometimes given away some of his marvelous personal possessions to needy believers not quite ready to enter the sacred city (because they are still alive).

Gossivam's Shawl: This item imparts a +1 bonus to all saving throws. If one perishes while wearing it, raise dead and similar spells cost 25% less gold to cast upon the deceased. Gossivam has no problem getting new shawls, so he gives this item away fairly frequently (every year or two).

The Prophet's Ring: This unique ring hails from Gossivam's days as a greedy false prophet. It is made in the style of the ancient Khaldo, appearing as an insect curled about one's finger. The wearer enjoys a +3 bonus to initiative and can heal another creature touched (never himself) 2d8+5 hit points, once per day. If this ability is used or the ring changes hands, the initiative bonus is lost until the next day.

Potions And Elixirs

Surrounded as they are by the superstitious, insectophiliac Khaldo culture and the alkaloid-rich herbs of the drylands, the Hazar have developed some skill with alchemy.

Diviners' Draught: Concocted of powdered moon-moss and thousands of kiln-moths dissolved in a vitriolic extract, this potion allows the consumer to detect magic (as the spell) for an hour. Additionally, it allows the character to analyze anything they behold during that time as though they spent an hour studying it, even if they glimpse it for only a moment. Side effects occur after the effects wear off and include vomiting and sub-conjunctive hemorrhaging.

Natharon Oil: If one consumes even a small amount of oil from the dangerous nathar beetle, one is simultaneously rendered unintelligible to others and unable to parse language of any kind. This includes spoken, written, or even magical/telepathic communication. Strangely, a natharon-consumer is able to perfectly understand others under the effects of the drug, including almost any writing. The effects last for 1d6 hours and may cause lasting illiteracy for several weeks, especially with prolonged use and poor dosing. Hazar courtiers dilute the natharon oil into short-lasting potions that can be used to write cryptographically or read the same, with minimal risk of side effects.

Potion Of Undead Detection: The wide-leafed vines that grow near Ummaq can be pulverized and fermented to make a strange potion. When consumed, it causes violent illness based on the proximity of undead creatures: if there is at least one undead within a mile, the character feels mild nausea. If there are undead within three hundred feet, they retch uncontrollably for 3d6 minutes. If undead are within a hundred feet, the character suffers 1d6 damage and retches for at least ten minutes. If undead are within twenty-five feet, the character is so ill that they are reduced to 1 hit point from partial organ failure. Strangely, these potions do not function correctly in the presence of living vines of the species from which it is derived. when consumed within a mile of them, the character always suffers as though undead were within the closest proximity.

Prayers From Exile

Some of the spells and prayers used by the Hazar date back millennia, others have been revealed to priests more recently, gifts from the gods to help protect their people. Note that Hazar culture does not distinguish between arcane and divine spellcasters. To a Hazar, they are simply different kinds of priests. The spells below may be available to either or both, depending on your preferences.

The Lesser Invocation (1st level)
A short prayer traditionally recited before religious meetings, this incantation can become weaponized given a little magical energy. When cast, the caster heals 1d8 hit points. If the caster hits with a melee attack within the next round, the first such attack inflicts an extra +1d8 damage.

Forefather's Curse (2nd level)
A curse pronounced in an unrecognizably ancient Hazar dialect. Nobody even knows what the words mean, anymore. Whatever they are, a single living creature within short range is thoroughly cursed for a week and a day. During this time, food eaten by the target only provides 25% of its normal caloric value. Additionally, they suffer heatstroke when undertaking any labor as though they were performing said task in the middle of a sweltering desert. This makes something as simple as hammering in some pitons or wearing a suit of armor debilitatingly difficult. Finally, animals are automatically hostile to the target and seek to harm or avoid them if they can. Intelligent or magical animals might receive a save to resist attacking them (they still hate the target and want them to die, though).

Sacred Undoing (3rd level)
The works of man are flimsy to those who perceive the world of secrets. This spell can be cast upon a building or section of building not exceeding thirty square feet. Inside that space, any unlocked and unwarded doors or structural obstructions (barricades, portcullises) are destroyed, crumbling into useless chunks. Nonmagical glass or crystal based architectural features shatter into smithereens. If there are suitably flammable materials anywhere within the structure, 1d6 small fires (campfire-sized) will be lighted that will develop into a structure fire absent serious counter-efforts. Additionally, the caster can specify one 10x10 area on the exterior of the structure that will cave in, creating a large hole. This spell will not cause any but the most precarious structures to collapse immediately upon casting, but make a total structural failure due to other causes far more likely (during the next windstorm, for example).

The Grimwalk (2nd level)
After a few hours of chanting over a ritually prepared corpse, it animates as a zombie with double the normal hit points and that only suffers half damage from magic of any kind. The zombie cannot be controlled or turned, and will travel unerringly toward Ummaq of its own accord, only fighting if it is obstructed. Since the zombies created by this spell are not especially intelligent and frequently end up at the bottom of ravines or battling fearful travelers, this spell is regarded as a sort of last resort for those that do not have the luxury of personally conveying their friends' remains to Ummaq (a Hazar religious obligation). Note that it is violence-inducingly offensive to imply or state any similarities between the state of undeath and the special, sacred resurrection that occurs at Ummaq.

Prepare One's End (3rd level)
Adventuring is perilous. Sensible spellcasters will take precautions regarding their own final disposition. If you should perish within three days of casting this spell, your body will animate (as the grimwalk) after 1d4 hours of being dead. Unlike the grimwalk, this spell allows you to retain the majority of your intellect (though not your class abilities) for the first 24 hours of your animation, allowing you to do whatever you desire during that time (help your friends, try to find a cleric, etc).

A sky-demon descends to begin ritual combat against its summoner.
Syncretic Spells

Some spells have been learned from the wizards of Khaldo or developed with their influences during the Hazar exile there.

Clairvoyant Ichor (1st level)
You imbibe great quantities of poisonous insects, rendering yourself weak and nearly paralyzed from poison. This state lasts for an entire day. While it persists, your blood is altered to convey sensory information: you can perceive anything that occurs in the presence of a half liter or more of your blood as though you were standing there. Producing such a large quantity of blood necessarily involves inflicting damage equal to 25% of a character's hit points. Your mostly paralyzed body can strenuously whisper any revelations to those tending it. You only perceive information from blood shed the same day you cast this spell, though it need not remain in a liquid state. However, seriously diluting the blood or burning it will terminate your connection. Effects that cure you of your poisoned, paralyzed state also end this spell (or, in the case of protections from poison, prevent it).

Convene The Trial (4th level)
This spell summons a sky-demon to kill you. When cast, the creature lurks above you for up to an hour, singing songs about how it is about to kill you, then descends to wage ritual combat. In the old days, the priests of Crepulon would cast this spell before a crowd of people in order to prove their prowess and demonstrate the favor of their god. More recently, the Hazar have realized that the sky-demons really, really hates having the sacred formula of their rituals disrupted to the point where they will actually defend the caster from other enemies. Once those enemies are dealt with, the creature again turns its attentions to you. How you stat your sky-demon is up to me, but something along these lines might work.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gossivam's Lamentations

The Sleeping Empire

No people have suffered like the Hazarim. Their empire once spanned from the sands of Llarsh to the emerald waters of the Dying Sea. For a time, this sufficed. But several disastrous centuries served to reduce the empire until only the capital remained, surrounded by semi-independent villages. When the Khaldo came from the north with their great army, it is held that the city burned for twenty days.

The Khaldok Exile

For the insolence of the Hazar judge-king who refused to surrender, the Khaldo king decreed that the Hazar people would be destroyed forever. Of the four-hundred-thousand Hazars in the city, a mere twenty-thousand survived and were taken as slaves. Most were eventually brought to the capital at Khaldok, where they commanded a fine price due to their literacy.

Over the centuries, the Hazar remained enslaved but grew ever more useful and prominent amongst the Khaldo aristocracy. Their advice was sound and their divinations potent. A sort of sycophantic class of palace slaves arose, whose lives were more or less indistinguishable from the Khaldo royalty whom they served. They incorporated many of the strange Khaldo practices, including their preoccupation with dreams and spell-enhancement via the ritual handling or consumption of poisonous insects. Some even began to worship the strange Khaldo deities: Crepulon, whose eyes are the stars and whose hands are fish; Esshss, whose numberless legs are exceeded only by his even more numerous children; and broken-winged Chinnu, whose blood is nutritious enough to sustain her and, at least symbolically, her worshippers.

Gossivam, The False Prophet

After several centuries of exile, a man arose amongst the poor who claimed he could perform the ancient, now-lost art of raising the dead. He was not the first man to claim this, nor the first to be proven false when his arts were challenged. The crowd intended to beat Gossivam to death for his lies, but a stranger in their midst revealed himself to be an emissary from the long-neglected Hazar gods. "Though he was untrue, I have made him true. Do not kill this man," the stranger commanded. He departed on a whirlwind of flame, as the prophets of old.

Gossavam arose from the ground, his wounds closed. He spoke with newfound presence: the wisest of the free Hazar would come with him to the ruins of their old capital, Ummaq. There, they would set about their godly work. One by one, led by infallible miracle, Gossavam and his faithful disinterred the corpses of the ancient judge-kings and returned them to life. Only missing is Zakar-shum-Wai, the first judge-king, who was devoured by a whale.

Each of the judge-kings was brought back in a state of decay befitting their sins in life. Marunhal, the fourth king famous for butchering his wives, was hardly more than a skeleton. Juvenae II, who twice foreswore his regency, appears as whole as during his first life. Regardless of the state of their body, each retained the wisdom and experience gleaned from their years as ruler, and exhibited a holy dedication to Gossavam and his sacred mission.

The Eternal City

Ummaq, the sacred capital of the lost Hazar empire, lived once again. Most of the revived judge-kings also possessed the gift of life-giving, and set about its use with vigor. By the thousands, the lost citizens of old Hazar returned to life, though most displayed signs of decay in accordance with their failures during life. The city rebuilt itself. The long-fallen Walls Of Astrovar were rebuilt under the watchful eyes of old Astrovar himself, with many of the same engineers and servants who had helped him during his first life. This time, sustained as they were by sacred prayers and guided by holy purpose, they required neither sleep nor food. The wall sprung up almost overnight.

When the Khaldo sent their army to tame their unruly subjects, they found a city girded by stone and guarded by soldiers that could not be slain. Their army's careful sorties experienced terrible losses before giving up. The Khaldo have embraced a face-saving fiction, claiming the city as a tributary.

In Khaldok, the exiled Hazar slowly became aware that their ancient capital was reborn. Pilgrims ventured to behold it with their own eyes. The walls were indeed a sight to see, but none were permitted within. Gossavam himself waited by the city's gate, turning away the living.

"Only the dead may enter," he said. "Bring me your righteous dead and I shall return to them their breath, that they may reside with us, forever." He was as good as his word. Hazar brought before him were returned to life, whereupon they entered the city walls and were never seen again. As with the others, their state of decay upon revival reflected their moral decrepitude.

The Exile Ends

Eventually, it became the universal Hazar custom to send their deceased to Ummaq. A cultural sea change occurred: what righteous man would fear death, when he was awaited by the holiest prophets, the wisest kings, and all his friends and family who had gone before?

These days, most Hazar turned their back on the Khaldo, keeping themselves as separate as possible. Meanwhile, the palace Hazar cling ever tighter to their power, seeking to distance themselves from their poorer, more religious kin. In many ways, the powers of the Khaldo government are now largely wielded by a bureaucracy of semi-integrated Hazar. Still, many a palace Hazar sees to it that his bones will be discreetly conveyed to Ummaq upon his demise.

The grounds outside Ummaq are tended by an order of benevolent monks, who seek to protect those traveling to the holy city, while maintaining a state of such moral rectitude that their bodies will pass into Ummaq without blemish.

Elsewhere, the Hazar are valued for their knowledge of science and lore. Small Hazar communities can be found in many larger kingdoms throughout the region, providing their services while still maintaining their traditional beliefs.

Seemingly immortal himself, Gossivam still stands at the gates of Ummaq, reviving the dead and ushering them within. None who enter Ummaq emerge, ever.